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August 19th 2015

8 Great Fall Sown Flowers For Spring Blooms

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IMG_3284The hot, dry summer continues here in the normally temperate Skagit Valley.  During these dog days of summer, spring feels like a lifetime ago, and next spring feels even further off.  While it would be easy to coast through the rest of the summer, soaking in all the beauty, I know I need to be thinking and planning ahead for spring now.

That means making sure I have all the seeds on hand that I’ll need to sow this fall to ensure a full flush of blooms during mid-late spring. These flowers are an essential bridge between early-spring bulbs like narcissus, tulips and anemones and late-spring staples like peonies and field grown sweet peas.

IMG_3019 (1)In warmer growing zones (USDA zone 5 and up) fall-sown hardy annuals are a great way to get a jump start on spring flowers, but that’s only if you remember to order your seeds and plant them on time! Trust me, I’ve goofed this up more times than I’d like to admit. Hopefully this post will help you avoid making the same mistake.

Most of these varieties can be direct sown into prepared beds in your garden which means you don’t have to fuss with filling seed trays and babying seedlings in a greenhouse for months before transplanting them outside.  By getting your seed ordered now and then sowing them during the months of September and October (depending on your climate), these cold-tolerant plants will have time to get established and build a strong root system before the cold sets in.

Here’s my go-to list of fall-sown favorites:

IMG_1679Ammi:  Ammi visagna ‘Green Mist,’  Ammi majus ‘Casablanca’ and Ammi majus ‘Graceland’ have been huge producers for us and are the backbone of our early season bouquets. If you love the look of Queen Anne’s Lace, you’ll love the lacy flower heads, great vase life and clean green/white color provided by these flowers.

I direct seed them into the garden and then build a low caterpillar type tunnel over them before winter arrives. This added layer of protection from the elements is all they need to winter over and be flowering in abundance by late May.

IMG_6711Bells of Ireland: With giant green spires ringed with cone-shaped flowers, Bells of Ireland add drama and fragrance to bouquets.  Bells like cool weather and can be tough to transplant, so direct sowing is a great way to ensure these flowers get off to a good start.

IMG_1970Bupleurum: Late spring market bouquets would be impossible to create without this fantastic filler.  The airy flower heads and the limey, citrusy hues of Bupleurum combine beautifully with almost everything.  These guys are finicky to start indoors, direct seeding in the fall is a great way to ensure you have plentiful fillers to pick come springtime.

IMG_1530Centaurea:  Commonly called bachelor’s buttons or cornflower, these cottage garden classics are most often seen in their distinctive bright blue hue, but if you venture beyond the typical garden center seed racks, you will find that they come in a wide range of colors from pastel pinks and lavender to deeper magenta and merlot-colored blooms like ‘Black Gem’. They are a pain to pick but since they are so easy to grow, I always tuck a few rows in during the fall for early spring bouquets.

IMG_3074 (1)Larkspur: One of the easiest spring flowers to grow from seed, larkspur provides tall spikes of color that look stunning in the field and the vase.  Great in early season mixed bouquets, these versatile flowers can also be dried for later use. My all time favorite variety is the smoky purple ‘Earl Grey’.  I also custom blended a mix of dark indigo, periwinkle, a frosty blue and white bicolor and pure white as part of Floret Seeds’ Summer Sky Larkspur Mix. 

IMG_3195Nigella: Love-in-a-mist has a complex–alien like–bloom that adds incredible texture to bouquets.  When left on the plant, the flower forms a beautiful pod that is also great in design work.  Two of my favorites are ‘Delft Blue’ (pictured above) and ‘African Bride.’  The Floret Shop now features my custom Starry Nights Mix of  ‘Delft Blue,’ ‘Midnight’ and ‘African Bride’ which produce lavender dusted, royal blue and white blooms, all with spidery black centers.

IMG_6478Iceland Poppies: To get a jump on spring, I always start these poppies from seed in early September and tuck them into the hoophouse by late October. They can also be tucked into a low caterpillar type tunnel and you can find plans to make one HERE. This approach gives me armloads of the delicate, silk like flowers from late March-early May. Some of my favorites are Sherbet Mix and Champagne Bubbles White.

IMG_7278Sweet Peas: Over the years I tested out numerous ways to grow the very best sweet peas I can. After much trial and error I’ve found that fall sown plants outperform spring ones by almost double.

I start seed in October/November and then overwinter the plants in my minimally heated greenhouse until it’s safe to transplant them out into the hoop houses (Feb.) and the field (mid March). If you live in a cold climate, or don’t have any heated greenhouse space then you’ll want to stick with late winter sowing.

Note: for gardens in far northern areas with extreme temperatures,  you will likely need to wait until late winter/early spring to direct sow the flowers listed.

6744744479_a94c4cf256_bAdditional tips:  When direct sowing seeds in the fall, be sure to choose a site in your garden that will receive full sun.  Prepare the bed by amending it with compost or manure. Then rake it smooth so that your seeder doesn’t get hung up on any clumps or debris.

For most varieties, I sow 4 rows per bed, spaced 9-12 inches apart with my old EarthWay Seeder from Johnny’s. Chris and I will then string twine between posts anchored at either end of the beds to help guide us and keep our rows semi-straight, which also helps with weeding.

I have limited quantities of some of these specialty seeds in the Floret Shop.   Other great sources for seeds here in the U.S. are Johnny’s Selected Seeds and Renee’s Garden Seeds.  For U.K. readers, you might check Sarah Raven.

Even though it feels really strange to be thinking about spring right now, I promise it’ll be worth it. By taking a few minutes now to plan ahead and get some seeds ordered, you’ll be able to tuck a patch of early flowering workhorses into the garden this fall.


  1. Josh G. on

    Thanks for sharing such a nice and informative post. It’s very useful.

  2. erin aiston on

    I love gardening. Especially the flower garden, which attracts me a lot.Thanks for sharing the wonderful article & pictures.

  3. Belfiore stores on

    Gardening flowers is always a good idea, They always make us feel good and decorate our surrounding with their beautiful colors. Flowers are always been used for decoration for special events. Flowers are the one which not only attracts us by their colors but by their smells too.

  4. Abhishek Bittu on

    Your garden looks beautiful It’s the best to place for the good decision to your peaceful life. thanks for sharing the wonderful picture & info.

  5. Farah on

    Dear Erin,
    Thank you for this useful post! I live in a hardiness zone of 8b, our winters are mild but with occasional frosts to -5 C. we have a long hot summer (semi arid region). Our soil is (unfortunately) heavy clay. Do you think I can get away with direct sowing my seeds out in the field in late October? I’m planning on amending my soil with lots of well aged manure and will work it in to achieve a fine tilth as much as I can. But i’m still worried that the seeds of the varieties you listed above won’t sprout because of our clay soil and I really don’t want to waste precious seeds that I have imported overseas!. Your advice is much appreciated.

    • Team Floret on

      Hi Farah, it sounds like you are doing everything right. As you know, every garden is a little different. While our soil is super sandy, we know many flower farmers with heavy clay fields that successfully direct seed in fall for spring blooms. If you’re still not sure, consider direct seeding half the seed now and the other half in the spring and see how they produce. Good luck! -Team Floret

  6. kusumaa on

    It’s the best to place for the good decision to your peacefull life.

    We are the best people to approach for any gardening related queries.
    All Types of assistance will be provided at affordable prices.

  7. Nathalie lepine on

    Thank you for sharing this …do you think in zone 4 that it’s possible to do the same process with those and have the same résulte ???

  8. Anushka Sharma on

    It was wonderful to read your experience about the journey. Great advise and Guide.This was the most popular place ….nice post,I really want to go there

  9. Marianne on

    We’re in love with your sweet peas, do you have any tricks to getting such long stems, or is it a specific variety?

  10. Diane on

    Hello from just north of you in Ferndale! So fun to read this post and know you’re local! Love your place! Great advice I will try to take about doing for spring right now. So hard to get my head wrapped around that. I’m still loving summer and ignoring the shortening nights. Found you on FB at Angie the freckled Rose!

  11. David on

    Wow! Just discovered this blog and I’m already blown away. The garden looks almost like a rural – but beautifully organised – countryside scene. Looking forward to learning a lot and hopefully emulating some of the ideas I’m bound to find within the blog!

  12. Sas on

    Have you had success direct fall sowing Icelandic poppies? or do the have to be started in the GH?

  13. Christy Sinclair on

    Where do you buy your anemone and ranunculus bulbs.

    I love your blog.

    Thanks for getting is going!


  14. Bibi on

    Thank you for all the great suggestions – so helpful! I have a couple of questions – in the photo net to the larkspur there is a row of white pompom looking flowers, what would they be? With the love in a mist – how to you get them taller – we found ours were to short for bouquets – fine for jar posies! Great job you’re doing and looking forward to more exciting info. you share! (:

    • Floret on

      Hi Bibi–Thanks for your questions. The white flowers are dianthus ‘sweet white.’ In terms of nigella/ love-in-a-mist, we select only varieties that have longer-stem length. We also have found that direct seeding (versus transplanting) nigella helps them grow taller, as they generally don’t like to be disturbed. Hope this helps. Happy planting!

  15. Jordan on

    Beautiful pictures! I love the Bells of Ireland – a super unique looking bloom. Thanks for sharing!


    If you plant three rows per bed how do you weed in the middle row?

    Thanks for the inspiration! Angela

  17. Killoran Moore on

    Ooh! Thanks for this! I’ve read that spring-sown Nigella can be smaller/less productive than fall-sown. Mine was puny! Adorable, but not very useful. I’m sure there were a number of other factors, but I look forward to experimenting.

    Hopefully all goes well (IndieGoGo) and I can get some seed ordered and some beds made/planted up by the end of October.

  18. Melody on

    Thanks for this post! I’ve been wondering what exactly fall planting means. For the poppys and sweet peas, would they be OK in a low tunnel in a mild climate? I’m a little south of you in OR in zone 8/9. If I started them indoors and moved them to the tunnels for the winter do you think they would survive? Thank you so much!

    • Floret on

      Hi Melody. You should be ok to plant poppies and sweet peas in your low tunnel. I’d recommend that you plant them at least 6 weeks before it gets really cold, so it allows them time to get established.

  19. Kristy on

    Thank you again for a great article! Do you have a US source for the Ammi Casablanca seeds? The vendors that popped were overseas in my search.

  20. Melissa on

    Thanks for the timely post Erin! Two quick questions: 1) Do you have a seeder you love and would recommend? 2) Do you then mulch the plants come spring, or just try to keep up on the weeds? Many thanks.

    • Floret on

      Hi Melissa, I revised my post to include information on the seeder we use–thanks for asking. We do not mulch the plants in the spring, we just try to keep up with weeding (some years more successfully than others!)

  21. Allicia on

    Is it possible to do the poppies without a hoop house? They are extremely cold hardy,no?

    I’m in zone 5b/6a right on cusp.

    • Floret on

      Allicia, technically, poppies can be grown without a hoophouse, but you may not have as robust of a crop as you’d like. I might recommend waiting to start seeds indoors in January and then transplant them into the field in early spring.

  22. Tangled Gardens on

    Thank you so much for this invaluable information. I am preparing to start my cutting garden and though I am a very seasoned gardener I have basically no experience with seeding annuals as my focus has been on perennials. I hope to be able to squeeze all of these lovelies in so I have a nice selection for the farmers market. Wish me luck!

    • Floret on

      Good luck! Glad the information was helpful! Let me know how your crop fares next spring!

  23. Soni on

    Hi! Long time reader, first time commenter. What brand/type of seeder do you use? Thanks a bunch for your writing! Your blog is awesome!

    • Floret on

      Soni— I just updated the post to include this info–thanks for asking.

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